If you have never applauded any piece of art until your palms hurt, you definitely will when you see the new version of  Eduardo De Filipo’s Filumena  by Tanya Ronder at Almeida Theatre.

You find yourself in a spring evening of 1946s Naples, as soon as you open Almeida’s door, after a cold andcold- war-like journey to Islington. You feel warm already. Red roses in an orange coloured Mediterranean house’s garden, where we see a romantic table set for two, makes us curious already, it becomes hard to wait to hear Filippo’s touching lines.Soft Italian notes in the background tell you that, you should enjoy this beautiful night even if the most annoying , smelly ignorant person in the world ,even if George W Bush sits next to you. And you do…

And not long after, Domenico (Clive Wood) appears in his pyjama-jacket, thumbing, slapping himself and calling himself stupid. You smile already, but it is not really funny because he has been deceived by his mistress Filumena(Samantha Spiro) who has lived with him like his wife for 27 years,looked after him and his business without being valued or appreciated.In the end she had to pretend to be terminally ill  to marry him while he was planning to marry her nurse Dianna (Emily Plumtree).He married Filumena as he thought she was going to die.But an illiterate former prostitute, Filumena made everyone, including priest and the doctor, believe that she was so near to death and recovered a minute after priest had wedded them.How could she do that? Her reasons are big enough to soften any stoned heart…

All she wants to get out of this marriage is Domenico’s surname, not for her but for her three sons, who have no idea who their parents are, and not known by Domenico yet. When Domenico brings a lawyer to prove that their marriage can be annulled by law as Filumena ‘s disease was a fiction and  violated law, misled Priest ;Filumena, who invited her sons to tell them that she is their mother,  agrees to leave his house. However she needs only five minutes to tell us something that is womanly passionate and motherly compassionate but socially unjust enough to wet our cheeks…

She tells us how she decided to become a prostitute at the age of 17 while starving in a basement slums with no education. How she felt that she never had a family all her life and longed to have one all the time. How she secretly had three sons for 26 years. And she confesses that she is their mum. That doesn’t seem to bother Domenico, while it shocks the sons.Domenico  still wants 22yo nurse. But Filumena has one more thing to say only to Domenico privately before she goes…

“One of them is yours “says Filumena and continues as Domenico tries hard not to believe her.“It was a single evening of so many we spent that way. But on that particular evening you said, ‘Let’s love each other for real.’ And you turned off the light. And I did that evening love you with my whole self. And at the end you turned on the light on and handed me a hundred lire. I took it you left. But I didn’t spend it, I wrote the date on it. Then I waited like a saint, for you, for months and months.”

Domenico seems to believe her this time and asks which one of three sons is his one. But smart woman Filumena, who foresees the consequences of telling him which one is really his son,says, “Each of them the same. They have to be equal.” She removes her locket, takes out a worn 100 lire note ,tears a corner off and gives it to Domenico: “This is for you.” , she says. “Because Domenico, you do not buy children.” , and she leaves.

From that point on the only thing we observe is that how sensitively Italian philosopher and playwright Filippo tells us what it means to be a parent for an aged selfish gigolo like Domenico and what it means to have a family for a traumatised fighter like Filumena and what it means to have parents for forgotten children like Ricordo(Luke Norris), Umberto (Brodie Ross), Michele(Richard Riddell) as Domenico and Filumena remain married.

The magically impressive stage of Flippo’s play, that will be on at Almeida Theatre until the mid May,is designed by  Robert Jones.“Three Men in Tails” , “I Did it” ,“Saturday, Sunday, Monday” are Filippos other well known plays.


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